The word “dominant” gets thrown around a lot in sports, but few teams fit that description as well as the Air North Jets.
The Whitehorse senior hockey team won three tournaments and suffered only three losses this season.
The Jets capped their spectacular season by winning the division A final of the Whitehorse Rec Hockey League at the Canada Games Centre on Tuesday.
“Everyone is having fun and it’s just a good bunch of guys, playing hard, back checking, playing both ways, and no one is really getting on each other,” said Jets captain Ryan Kinney. “We’re just having fun and it makes it a winning team.”
The Jets took the A division, best-of-three final with consecutive wins over SLFS/Murphy Built, winning 10-4 Monday and 7-5 Tuesday.
Air North has been sponsoring the Jets team for a decade, but this is their first A division title. The Jets lost in the final last year.
“We’ve been here in the final a few times, but never actually won it,” said Kinney.
The Jets have four players who played down south at the junior level, including goalie Rob Young, who happens to be a pilot with Air North.
“They’re a special group of guys,” said Young of the Jets’ bench.
“They just never quit. Every game they come out ready to win… It’s weird to have that same drive for every line that comes out. The guys that come out from time to time, but don’t always play with the team, have that same drive and that same will to win.”
The A division champs lost only two games in the league – one they defaulted – entering the playoffs with a 29-2-0 record. They then went 7-0-1 in the playoffs, tying Murphy Built 5-5 on March 21.
The Jets won the 2013 Rendezvous Hockey Tournament, with just one loss along the way, in February. The team also went undefeated in tournaments in Dawson City in January and Fort Nelson, B.C., in November.
The Jets clinched the division A title on Tuesday, but it didn’t come without a fight.
Air North took a 3-1 lead in the first period on goals from Phil Harry with two and Rob Stuckey with one to finish the period up 3-2. They also out-shot Murphy Built 18-8 in the period.
However, the Murphy crew scored two goals on five shots early in the second to take a 4-3 lead.
“Teams like this, if you can catch them flatfooted, you have to take it,” said Murphy Built co-captain Skyler Hougen. “You have to score when you can because they’re not going to give you more chances.”
“That’s rec hockey, I guess,” said Kinney. “We came out a bit flatfooted, we were not focused. We beat them pretty bad last night, so I guess we came in nonchalant tonight.”
Harry scored his third to tie the game before teammate Evan Campbell put the Jets back up by a goal at 5-4.
Campbell was second for points in the league in the postseason with 10 goals and 10 assists. Campbell, who played junior B in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, was third for points in the league during the regular season with 33 goals and 40 assists.
Jets’ Mike Fraser put in the game-winner with five minutes left in regulation and Stuckey scored his second of the night on an empty-netter with 42 seconds remaining.
Murphy Built’s Steve Israel and Hougen both scored twice and Justin Quigley had a four-point night with three assists in the game.
“We’re really happy with the way we played,” said Hougen. “We left the game pretty excited. We said at the beginning that we have to play a stellar game, our goalie has to play a stellar game to compete with these guys. It’s no joke, they’re a dominant team.
“They skate around you, you just have to minimize their chances to put it in the net.”
In Monday’s game, Campbell had two goals and four assists. Stuckey had a hat trick and an assist. Kinney also had a good night with two goals and an assist. Teammate Brad Holm had three assists.
“Rob Stuckey really carried our weight there,” said Kinney. “Kaleb (Dawe) has been anchoring us back on defence, Even (Campbell) and Kane (Dawe) put a lot of pucks on net for us.
“Really our whole team plays well. I think Rob had a great playoff run there.”
Murphy Built’s Chris Evans had a goal and two assists while Hougen, Quigley and Dave Ricard also scored Monday. Hougen was the league’s top-scorer in the postseason with 15 goals and eight assists.
“Most of the guys have been in the league six years, bouncing from team to team, and have never been in the final,” said Hougen. “It was a fun season.”
Murphy goalie Benoit Grenier was “phenomenal,” said Hougen. “We traded for him two years back with another team in the league – we made a little rec league trade. That’s how we got a couple of our leading players. It’s pretty fun.”
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